I Killed Michael
To celebrate the start of my summer reading program, I read an excerpt of “Remember The Time Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days” via a Slate retweet. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because I don’t really expect much of anything released post-posthumously. However, to my surprise, I found myself enthralled in the memoirs of Michael Jackson’s two bodyguards. Their recollections are unlike any others simply for the reason that, besides Michael’s own children (and perhaps their nanny), they were with Michael day in and day out.
After having grown up in the spotlight, headlining hundreds of shows globally, and commandeering a generation of popular culture, it was time for the King of Pop to return to Earth–except he couldn’t. When you look like what Michael looked like and when you did what Michael did like you can’t just fade into obscurity and live a normal life. He was at once extraordinary and “abnormal”. He developed on the stage, in the studio, and under our gaze. Thriller doomed Michael into an eternal cosmic orbit. Though a relic of esteem, Thriller was also a jail cell. Everyone wants to know what happens after you reach the top–and usually everyone just wants to see the fall. See also: Lebron James.
So as June 25th rolls around once again, I’m writing this blog to confess that I killed Michael Jackson. You killed Michael Jackson. Collectively, our stifling appetite to see his moonwalk and to hear his voice killed him. He was an artist that had an incredible gift for creating–and that’s precisely what I think killed him. Celebrity doesn’t care so much about the art as it does about the artist giving themselves to all of us. We all just wanted more and in the midst of that wanting we forgot that Michael had wants of his own. One day the King of Pop wanted to retire the crown. He wanted to be a dad and watch his kids grow up. He wanted to go shopping during normal operating hours. He wanted to walk into a bar and tell the bartender, “Give me a beer!” He wanted all of this and it was impossible.
This is all to say that I am trying to temper my appetite for celebrity culture. It’s perfectly fine to be a fan, but how do we separate fandom from idolatry? I hope that I never gush over a famous person if I ever meet a famous person. I want to treat them like I would anyone else: a handshake, maybe a hug, a few polite words (including “I’m a huge fan” or “I appreciate what you’ve done/created”), and then I’d be on my way–if any of this at all. All of those adoring fans outside of airports and hotels on Michael’s tours? They killed him. As an artist he loved it, but as a human it drained and dehumanized him. When all the world wants one man and that man gives all he has, Michael Jackson happens on August 29, 1958 and ends on June 25th, 2009.
On a side note: I am particularly skeptical about anything released after Michael’s death. In the first place, he had no part in the production of those releases. In the second place, those releases are simply the vultures circling Michael’s corpse. Michael had absolutely nothing to do with his family when the family band disbanded. It was cringe worthy when his brothers did the backing vocals to the posthumous release “This Is It”. Yes, it was touching that the family would do something so sensitive, but it also reeked of greed. I loved watching “This Is It” over and over and over, but in the back of my mind I knew This Is It seemed kind of forced. I really don’t think Michael wanted to do those 50 shows in London, but I wanted him to. I killed him.